Three years ago Connor, Sarah and I took two kittens home with hastily chosen, yet seemingly well-chosen names. One of them, Maggie, remains.
One kitten immediately busted out of the box in the back seat and began frantically exploring the car. She was soon to be named Magellan. Because the previous “owners” had told us that Magellan was a girl cat, we decided we could adapt and call her Maggie while still honoring her true explorer nature. The cat who chose to remain in the box and quiet ended up being named after the Viking explorer ,Leif Erikson, who we imagined was the strong, silent Viking type. We had been told he was a boy cat. We were not experts in gender at that point in our experiences of this wonderful life. Soon enough, we figured out that Maggie was, indeed, a boy. By that point, Maggie was Maggie and despite the gender confusion, he was going to remain Maggie. To this day, he remains Maggie.
I tell Maggie’s story because I don’t think names are always easy things to make sense of. Certainly, for MANY people, their name makes sense and is a stable part of their time on this wonderful planet. For me, that has not been the case.
I was born William Russell Cleveland.
That was my name through my first seven years of life. Most everyone, so I’m told, called me Billy. When I was five my father left my mother and they were quickly divorced. When she remarried quickly to find a way to keep our family safe and secure, my new step-father decided that it would be in my best interest to have my name changed to match his. He was an “important” person in a very small, rural Michigan town. Those things mattered to “important” people in 1969.
I became William Mark Getty. My middle name was a casualty of the whole operation because my new step-father’s middle name also started with an R. Having two William R. Getty people in the same small town was apparently an unacceptable infringement on the nature of that small town. I’m not sure how Mark was chosen. It’s actually completely irrelevant to my life in every way. Zero meaning. Nevertheless, the adults in my life decided I was now going to be William Mark Getty. Male privilege was alive and well in 1969. I’ll never forget the tears that welled up when my ruthlessly mean second grade teacher told me I could NOT remain Billy Cleveland in HER classroom despite my objections to the legal name change not being my idea. I was to follow the rules and say “Present” when she called out “William Getty”.
“Fuck you, Mrs. Carter,” I say now.
There. I always wanted to say that. I feel better now… somewhat. She had the chance to treat a child with kindness and instead chose to force compliance on me. She won the battle 50 years ago. I’m winning the war today.
I lived as William Mark Getty for most of my life. Adapt – Improvise – Overcome became my way of life. The best thing about my male life was having the opportunity to bring my son into the world.
When I started my MTF transition, I knew I would change my name to something, but I didn’t know what it would be. I do now. From the time I started imagining this transition, I’ve asked myself the question…
“What will my new name be?”
I thought Billie was my answer. It meant my friends, family and colleagues didn’t have a lot of WORK to do for MY benefit. The shift from Bill to Billie was easy. Also, I had spent my formative first five years of life being called Billy so the spelling change would be a simple switch. Surely something that was easy for everyone else and had some meaning to me was the right choice. It was at the time.
What I know now is that “Billie” was my transitional answer. I ask for your support as I make a change to Ally. I hope you’ll endure this part of my transition with me. It means a lot to me. In the end it’s essential for me.
Transition is a time of great upheaval for a person’s mind, body and soul.
As my transition matures, sometimes things creep up on me that I don’t see coming. I must admit, I don’t like it when that happens. I like to be the one who is always prepared for every twist and turn life can offer. I take great pride in being well-prepared and knowing my opponent. I have an inner Belechick that drives me to that goal of preparedness.
What I need to learn… the essential question I need to hold on to and wait for the answer to arrive… is this:
How do I set aside my drive to be special – to be the one who’s always prepared for every eventuality – and just be me?
The answer lies in accepting myself as who I am in this moment. That said, I realize I don’t get to change my name every few months nor would I want to do something so silly.
This 19 second, hilarious animal video tells the story of Ally finding her way into my soul. I was happily living life and then WHAM! The metaphorical Ally cat says, “HEY – I’m right here. Time to wake up!” I’m awake now. There is a story for another post about how I chose Ally as my name.
Things, in actuality, happened somewhat slower. The Derby culture places high value on Derby names. My new friends – Mutha, Killa, Slim, Cutter, Arky, Rae, Shamrock-it, Booty and all the other Fallen Angels know me as Ally. As that name got used over and over, it stuck to me like glue. It penetrated into my heart as the name I’d chosen FOR MYSELF.
I liked how it felt to be totally feminine me – Ally – and totally free of the old male me – Bill/Billie (yes Billie still had some male feel to it). I liken it to the process of transitioning from a testosterone-based creature to an estrogen-based creature over the last five years. EVERY step of the way has felt RIGHT. Every time I hear my name spoken aloud, it feels right.
Razinkane, my AWESOME derby coach – I am forever in your debt. You have so freely used my name when you speak to me. Each and every time I heard you use it, I felt stronger. You, and others in derby too, have given me the inspiration and freedom to be me. I feel so much love and gratitude to all the Androscoggin Fallen Angels.
I’m making the change to Ally. Y’all can call whatever you want. I’ll probably respond to most of it. I know from this day forward I’ll be Ally in my heart and soul. I hope y’all can make the change with me. I understand this will be a process and yet another transition. I appreciate your efforts to stay with me. I’ve got to jump through the hoops of legality. I’ll get that done when I get that done.
In the end, I’m the person I’ve always hoped to be – one who wonders at the beauty of the world and tries her best to inspire others to do the same. Whether it’s through Derby, Football, Kombucha or teaching the ins and out of how to properly construct a sentence, I work every day to be the best me I can be. I’ll continue to strive for excellence in everything I do. Hopefully, I’ll encounter at least a few victories along the way.
Love to you all…